Are you tired of finding yourself in a restaurant surrounded by tourists even after you asked your hotel or hostel receptionist “where can I go to eat good food with locals”?…Well you’ve come to the right place.This list provides you with a few places that you might not have otherwise considered. These are not restaurants with the top ratings on TripAdvisor, but they are places that are either authentically local or have unique dining options. Please try to keep an open mind about trying new food while you’re here and we hope that you enjoy the local food as much as your stay!
Pilaf & Qebap – Puri Qebap has become so popular internationally that most people don’t need a translation for it, but Pilaf (Rice) & Qebap (grilled meat in the shape of a sausage) are popular for breakfast or for a quick lunch. Puri makes some of the best pilaf in town with a bit of meat sauce and goat cheese on top. Our suggestion: Although they offer other items, we would suggest you keep it simple and stick to the Pilaf & Qebab.
Tavë Krapi – Around the lake Shkodrans are famous for their tavë krapi. Tavë krapi is carp marinated with onions, garlic, tomatoes, and sometimes plums (to add a little sweetness) and then baked in the oven. The sauce is bittersweet and delicious. This dish is thoroughly approved of by my father-in-law, it is pretty much the only dish that he orders when out to eat. Our suggestion: It will be difficult to find a restaurant in town that will serve you this dish. Do as the locals do and enjoy Tavë Krapi at one of the restaurants around the lake. You can find restaurants in Shiroke (30 minutes by bike from the city center of Shkoder) that will serve you Tavë Krapi.
Grosh –Çocja’s Grosh is a bean soup that many Albanian families will eat at least once a week. Although Grosh tends to be a bit more of a winter thing, you can find it at Çocja’s during the summer if you want to try it. The soup is filling and sure to make you fart (stinky!) Our suggestion: Grosh is another quick cheap lunch option and can be complimented well with a side of salce kosi (yogurt dip), zarzavate zgare (grilled vegetables), and kackavall te skuqur (fried cow cheese).
Family style dining – Keshtjella Xhafa This restaurant is in fact about a 20-minute drive outside the city of Shkoder in the direction of Koplik. On a clear day, you can get a nice view of Shkoder Lake and the surrounding mountains. This is a typical weekend restaurant (usually lunch) for friends and families. A typical menu to be shared with the table: Tave keci/qingji (roasted goat or lamb), sallate mikse (mixed salad), patate ne furre (oven baked potatoes), & djath dhie (goat cheese). Our suggestion: Go with the family style so you can try a little bit of everything!
Tres Leches – Bell Italia Though not an Albanian desert in origin, Tres Leches or “three milks” is a staple in bakeries throughout the country. The desert is rumored to have made its way to Albania from its appearance on Latin American tele-novellas that were extremely popular here in the early 2000s. Tres leches is a spongy vanilla cake soaked in three milks and topped with caramel. Our suggestion: Try a different desert at Bell Italia every night of your trip. Bell Italia serves phenomenal deserts & gelato at very affordable places.
Taste of Home – Shega e Eger Ok, so this cafe is on TripAdvisor and full disclosure we partner with them, but we do think they offer a very interesting dining option. At Shega e Eger you can try a “taste of home” which is a sampling of home cooked food. When we say home cooked we mean it, the food is prepared by local women. The options change regularly but often include bamja (okra), bishtaj (bean pods), salce kosi me kungull (yogurt sauce & zucchini), spec te mbushur (stuffed peppers). Though a taste of home was made with tourists in mind, it is real local food, not a tourist trap. Our suggestion: The taste of home is a great way to sample homemade Albanian cooking and it’s as close as you can get to “mom’s cooking” while you’re traveling.